Showing posts with label 2015 oil price forecast. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2015 oil price forecast. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Grappling with volatility in a barmy crude market

The oil market is not making a whole lot of sense at present to a whole lot of people; the Oilholic is admittedly one of them. However, wherever you apportion the blame for the current market volatility, do not take the convenient route of laying it all at China’s doorstep. That would be oversimplification!

It is safe to say this blogger hasn’t seen anything quite as barmy over the last decade, not even during the post Lehman Brothers kerfuffle as a US financial crisis morphed into a global one. That was in the main a crisis of demand, what’s afoot is one triggered first and foremost by oversupply. 

As one noted in a recent Forbes column, the oversupply situation – not just for oil but a whole host of commodities – merits a deeper examination. The week before we saw oil benchmarks plummet after the so-called ‘Black Monday’ (August 24) only for it recover by Friday and end higher on a week-over-week basis compared to the previous week’s close (see graph above, click to enlarge)

This was followed on Monday, August 31 by some hefty gains of over 8% for both Brent and WTI. Yet at the time of writing this blog post some 48 hours later, Brent had shed over 10% and the WTI over 7% on Tuesday but again gained 1.72% and 1.39% respectively on Wednesday.

The reasons for driving prices down were about as fickle as they were for driving them up and subsequently pulling them down again, and so it goes. When the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported on Monday that the country’s oil production peaked at just above 9.6 million barrels per day (bpd) in April, before falling by more than 300,000 bpd over the following two months; those in favour of short-calling saw a window to really go for it.

They also drew in some vague OPEC comment (about wanting to support the price in tandem with other producers), knowing full well that the phoney rally would correct. The very next day, as the official purchasing managers’ index for Chinese manufacturing activity fell to 49.7 in August, from the previous month’s reading of 50, some serious profit-taking began.

As a figure below 50 signals a contraction, while a level above that indicates expansion, traders found the perfect pretext to drive the price lower. Calling the price higher based on back-dated US data on lower production in a heavily oversupplied market is about as valid as driving the price lower based on China’s manufacturing PMI data indicative of a minor contraction in activity. The Oilholic reckons it wasn’t about either but nervous markets and naked opportunism; bywords of an oversupplied market.

So at the risk of sounding like a broken record, this blogger again points out – oversupply to the tune of 1.1-1.3 million bpd has not altered. China’s import level has largely averaged 7 million bpd for much of the year so far, except May. 

Yours truly is still sticking to the line of an end of year Brent price of $60 per barrel with a gradual supply correction on the cards over the remaining months of 2015 with an upside risk. Chances of Iran imminently flooding the market are about as likely as US shale oil witnessing a dramatic decline to an extent some in OPEC continue to dream off.

But to get an outside perspective, analysts at HSBC also agree it may take some time for the market to rebalance fully. “The current price levels look completely unsustainable to us and a combination of OPEC economics and marginal costs of production point to longer-term prices being significantly higher,” they wrote in a note to clients.

The bank is now assuming a Brent average of $55.4 per barrel in 2015, rising to $60 in 2016 and $70-80 for 2017/18. Barclays and Deutsche Bank analysts also have broadly similar forecasts, as does Moody’s for its ratings purposes.

The ratings agency sees a target price of $75 achieved by the turn of the decade, but for yours truly that moment is bound to arrive sooner. In the meantime, make daily calls based on the newsflow in this barmy market. That’s all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it crude!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2015. Graph: Oil benchmark Friday closes, Jan 2 to Aug 28, 2015 © Gaurav Sharma, August 2015.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Resisting $40/bbl, Russia & some ‘crude’ ratings

Following two successive week-on-week declines of 6% or over, last Friday’s close brought some respite for Brent oil futures, although the WTI front month contract continued to extend losses. In fact, the US benchmark has been ending each Friday since June 12 at a lower level compared to the week before (see graph, click to enlarge).
 
Will a $40-floor breach happen? Yes. Will oil stay there? No. That’s because market fundamentals haven’t materially altered. Oversupply and lacklustre demand levels are broadly where they were in June. We still have around 1.1 to 1.3 million barrels per day (bpd) of extra oil in the market; a range that’s held for much of 2015. Influences such as Iran’s possible addition to the global crude oil supply pool and China not buying as much have been known for some time.

The latest market commotion is sentiment driven, and it’s why the Oilholic noted in a recent Forbes column that 2016-17 futures appear to be undervalued. People seem to be making calls on where we might be tomorrow based on the kerfuffle we are seeing today!

Each set of dire data from China, inventory report from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), or a gentle nudge from some country or the other welcoming Iran back to the market (as Switzerland did last week) has a reactive tug at benchmarks. The Oilholic still believes Brent will gradually creep up to $60-plus come the end of the year, with supply corrections coming in to the equation over the remainder of this year.

Away from pricing, there is one piece of very interesting backdated data. According to the EIA, Russia’s oil and gas sector weathered both the sanctions as well as the crude price decline rather well.

For 2014, Russia was the world's largest producer of crude oil, including lease condensate, and the second-largest producer of dry natural gas after the US. Russia exported more than 4.7 million bpd of crude oil and lease condensate in 2014, the EIA concluded based on customs data. Most of the exports, or 98% if you prefer percentages, went to Asian and European importers.

Where Russian production level would be at the end of 2015 remains the biggest market riddle. Anecdotal and empirical evidence points to conducive internal taxation keeping the industry going. However, as takings from oil and gas production and exports, account for more than half of Russia's federal budget revenue – it is costing the Kremlin.

Finally, two ratings notes from Fitch over the past fortnight are worth mentioning. The agency has revised its outlook on BP's long-term Issuer Default Rating (IDR) to ‘Positive’ from ‘Negative’ and affirmed the IDR at 'A'.

The outlook revision follows BP's announcement that it has reached an agreement in principle to settle federal, state and local Deepwater Horizon claims for $18.7bn, payable over 18 years. “We believe the deal has significantly reduced the uncertainty around BP's overall payments arising from the accident and hence has considerably strengthened the company's credit profile,” Fitch said.

The agency added there was a real possibility for an upgrade to 'A+' in the next 12 to 18 months, depending on how things pan out and BP's upstream business profile does not show any significant signs of weakening, such as falling reserves or production.

Elsewhere, and unsurprisingly, Fitch downgraded the beleaguered Afren to ‘D’ following the management's announcement on July 31 that it had taken steps to put the company into administration. The company's senior secured rating has been affirmed at 'C', and the Recovery Rating (RR) revised to 'RR5' from 'RR6'.

As discussions with creditors aimed at recapitalising the company failed, the appointment of administrators was made with the consent of the company's secured creditors who saw it as an “important step in preserving value of Afren's subsidiaries”. It is probably the only “value” left after a sorry tale of largely self-inflicted woes. That’s all for the moment folks, keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2015. Graph: Oil benchmark Friday closes, Jan 2 to Aug 14, 2015 © Gaurav Sharma, August 2015.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

OPEC’s hunt for an ‘equitable’ oil price

The OPEC meeting is over, quota stays at 30 million barrels per day, and by the way – it was never a quota but rather a recommendation in Secretary General Abdalla El-Badri’s own words.

From now until December, when OPEC meets next, member nations would be contemplating what constitutes an equitable price (whether or not that’s achievable given the state of the market) and use that as a basis for deliberations next time around. Both benchmarks ended sharply lower on Friday relative to the previous week’s closing price after OPEC’s decision. Brent shed 3.51% on its May 29 closing price while the WTI lost 2.32%. OPEC’s daily basket price came in at US$59.67 a barrel, right before it reached its latest decision.

In fact, OPEC’s average monthly basket price tells its own story. A graph drawn by the Oilholic (see above left, click to enlarge) based on OPEC data, shows the price falling from an average of $107.89 in June 2014 to $62.24 in May; a decline of 42.31% in that time. It went down a cliff between June and January, before recovering to where we are at the moment.

This blogger firmly believes we are stuck here or hereabouts for a while, as probably do most oil producers (OPEC or non-OPEC). While most would want as high a price as possible, what would they deem as equitable? The figure varies, but when asked about the current price level, Saudi oil minister Ali Al-Naimi quipped: “You can see that I am not stressed, I am happy.”

Of course, the price threshold point ensuring Al-Naimi’s happiness would be a lot lower than regional rivals Iran or Iraq. The Iranians expressed a desire for $75, the uppermost and highly unlikely top range of the Oilholic’s short-term forecast.

Angola, Nigeria, Ecuador and Venezuela said $80 was their equitable price. One suspects, Venezuela – in the midst of an economic crisis – needs a three-figure price but cast its lot with those quoting the highest, even if its $20 short of what it is after.

When quizzed about the oil price, El-Badri said, “OPEC does not have a so-called oil price target; we leave that to the market.

“I agree that there are income disparities within OPEC. We have rich oil exporters and poor oil exporters; our decision in November [to hold production] as well as what we have decided today is in the interest of all members.”

The rich ones – Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Kuwait – met well before the OPEC seminar and the subsequent minister's summit, and agreed on keeping the production ceiling where it was at 30 million bpd.

OPEC's production actually came in at 30.93 million bpd in April, and could unofficially be anywhere between 31.5 to 32 million bpd depending on which recent industry survey you choose to rely on. It’s probably why El-Badri downgraded OPEC’s “quota” into a “members’ recommendation”. The Oilholic though couldn’t help noticing there was quiet satisfaction within OPEC about the market not getting materially worse between its meetings with little prospect of prices getting entrenched below $40.

One does not see it coming either. As we enter the latter half of the year, focus will shift towards global economic growth and how it supports demand for crude oil. OPEC noted the global economic recovery had stabilised, albeit with growth at moderate levels.

In the current year, global GDP growth is projected at 3.3%, and expected to be at a slightly higher level of 3.5% for 2016. As a consequence, OPEC expects world oil demand to increase in the second half of 2015 and in 2016, with growth driven by non-OECD countries.

Of course, the said growth levels wont see the oil price shoot up given more than adequate supplies, but will probably see 8 out of 12 OPEC members pretty content, whether they get what they say is their equitable price or not. That’s that from the 167th OPEC meet; time to head back to London town. Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2015. Graph: Monthly average OPEC Basket Price (June 2014 to May 2015) © Gaurav Sharma / Data Source: OPEC.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Oil markets & producers on a tricky skating rink

So we had a crude oil price plunge early January, followed by a spike that promptly "un-spiked", only to rise from the ashes and subsequently go down the path of decline again. Expect further slippage, more so as the last week of profit taking takes place before the March futures contracts close, which in ICE Brent’s case would be February 13.

Amid the ups and downs of the last six weeks, headline writers were left tearing their hair on a daily basis switching from "Brent extends rally" to "Oil slides despite OPEC talk of a floor" to "Falling Premiums" to "Crude oil getting hammered" and back to "Oil jumps". All the while commentators queued up with some predicting a return to a US$100 per barrel Brent price "soon", alongside those sounding warnings about a drop to $10.

The actual market reality is both here and nowhere, as we enter a period of constant slides and spikes between $40 and $60. There are those who say the current oil price level cannot be sustained and supply-side analysts, including the Oilholic, who say the current oil production levels cannot be sustained. Both parties are correct – a price spike and a supply correction will happen in tandem, but not overnight.

It will take at least until the summer for sentiments about lower production levels to feed through, if not longer. More so, as many are gearing up to produce more with less, for example in Western Canada where fewer wells would be dug this year, but the production tally would be higher than the previous year. Taking a macro viewpoint, all the chatter of bull runs, bear attacks and subsequent rallies is just that – chatter. Market fundamentals have not materially altered.

Despite the latest Baker Hughes data showing fewer operational rigs compared to this point last year, the glut persists and there is some way to go before it alters. Roughly around 5% of current global oil production is taking place at a loss. Yet producers are biting the bullet wary of losing market share. It'll take a lot longer than a few weeks of negative rig data in the new year, before someone eventually blinks and makes a substantial impact on production levels. The Oilholic reckons it will be around June.

Until then, expect the market to continue skating in the $40 to $60 rink. In fact, there is some justification in OPEC Secretary General Abdalla Salem El-Badri’s claim that oil prices have bottomed out. While we could have a momentary dip below $40, something which the Western Canadian Select has already faced. However, by and large benchmark prices have indeed found resistance above $40. 

Having said so, the careful thing to do between now and (at least) June would be to not get carried away by useless chatter. When Brent shed 11.44% in the first five trading days of January, only to more than recover the lost ground by the end of the month (see chart on the right, click to enlarge), some called it a mini-bull run.

Percentages are always relative and often misleading in the volatile times we see at the moment, as one noted in a recent Tip TV broadcast. So mini-bull run claims were laughable. As for the eventual supply correction, capex reduction is already afoot. BP, Shell, BG Group and several other large and small companies have announced spending cuts. A recent Genscape study of 95 US exploration and production (E&P) companies noted a cumulative capex decline of 27%, from $44.5 billion last year to a projected $32.5 billion this year.

Meanwhile, Igor Sechin, the boss of Russia’s Rosneft has denied the country would be the first to blink and lower production in a high stakes game. Quite the contrary, Sechin compared the US shale boom to the dotcom bubble and rambled about the American position not being backed up by crude reserves.

He also accused OPEC along familiar lines of conspiring with Western nations, especially the US, to hurt Russia. Moving away from silly conspiracy theories, Sechin does have a point – the impact of a lower oil price on shale is hard to predict and is currently being put to test. We’ll know more over the next two to three quarters.

However, comparing the shale bonanza to the dotcom bubble suggests wilful ignorance of a few basic facts. Unlike the dotcom bubble, where a plethora of so-called technology firms put forward their highly leveraged, unproven, profit lacking ventures pitched to investors by Wall Street as the next big thing, independent shale oil upstarts have a ready, proven product to sell in barrels.

Of course, operational constraints and high levels of leveraging remain burdensome in a bearish oil market. While that might cause difficulties for fringe shale players, established ones will carry on regardless and find ways to mitigate exposure to volatility.

In case of the dotcom bubble, where some had nothing of proven tangible value to sell, independents tipped over like dominos when the bubble burst, apart from those who had a plan. For instance, the likes of Amazon or eBay have survived and thrived to see their stock price recover well above the dotcom boom levels.

Finally, in case of US shale players, ingenuity of the wildcatters catapulted them to where they are with a readily marketable product to sell. There is anecdotal evidence of that same ingenuity kicking in tandem with extraction process advancements thereby making E&P activity viable even at a $40 Brent price for many if not all.

So it's not quite like Pets.com if you know what the Oilholic means. Sechin’s point might be valid but its elucidation is daft. Furthermore, US shale players might have troubling days ahead, but trouble is something the Russian oil producers can see quite clearly on their horizon too. Additionally, shale plays have technological cooperation aimed at lowering costs on their side. Sanctions mean sharing of international technology to sustain or boost production as well as lower costs is off limits for the moment for Russia.

On a closing note, its being hotly disputed these days whether and by how much lower oil prices boost global economic activity, as one noted in a recent World Finance journal video broadcast. Entering the debate this week, Moody’s said lower oil prices might well give the US economy a boost in the next two years, but will fail to lift global growth significantly as headwinds from the Eurozone, China, Brazil and Japan would dent economic activity.

Despite lower oil prices, the agency has maintained its GDP growth forecast for the G20 countries at just under 3% in both 2015 and 2016, broadly unchanged from 2014. Moody's outlook is based on the assumption that Brent will average $55 in 2015, rising to $65 on average in 2016. 

It assumes that oil prices will stay near current levels in 2015 because demand and supply conditions are "unlikely to change markedly" in the near future, as The Oilholic has been banging on many a blog post including this one. That’s all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2015. Photo: Danger of slipping sign. Graph: Oil Benchmark Prices, January 2015 © Gaurav Sharma

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Brent’s premium gets dents as oil price dips

It’s definitely a moment worth recording and the Oilholic was rather glad he was awake earlier today when it happened. For at one point in Asian trading, both Brent and WTI were in perfect sync at US$48.05 per barrel as the oil markets rout continues (see screen grab below, click to enlarge). What's more, for a precious few minutes, the WTI actually traded at a premium of a few cents to Brent marking only the third such occurrence since 2010.


Of course, Brent’s premium has been since been restored back to well over a dollar and rising. However, it is a far cry from 2012 when the premium was averaging around $20 per barrel above the WTI, and did touch $25 at one point if this blogger’s memory serves him well.

The near coming together of both global benchmarks shouldn’t come as a surprise as it was on the horizon. What transpired today was merely for the sake of a record which might not be all that unique over the coming weeks and months of volatility. That said, once the projected supply correction kicks in around midway point of this year, the Oilholic does see Brent’s single digit premium to the WTI climb up to around $5.

As of now, one's 2015 oil price forecast is for a Brent price in the range of $75 to $85 and WTI price range of $65 to $75. Weight on Brent should be to the upside, while weight on WTI should be to the downside of the aforementioned range.

Meanwhile, a Baron’s article is suggesting oil could fall to $20, while industry veteran T. Boone Pickens says he’s seen several slumps in his lifetime and reckons a return to a $100 level within the next “12 to 18 months” is inevitable.

Additionally, the Oilholic has called an end to the so-called “commodities supercycle” in his latest quip for Forbes. On a related note, Goldman Sachs has trimmed its six and 12 month 2015 estimates for Brent to $43 and $70, from $85 and $90, and to $39 and $65, from $75 and $80, for the WTI.

Finally, as talk of a Venezuelan default gains market traction, Moody’s has downgrades ratings of PDVSA and its wholly-owned US-based refining subsidiary Citgo Petroleum. PDVSA’s long term issuer rating and senior unsecured notes were downgraded by the agency to Caa3 from Caa1. Moody’s changed its outlook on the ratings to stable from negative. 

Citgo Petroleum's Corporate Family Rating was downgraded to B3 from B1; its Probability of Default rating to B3-PD from B1-PD; and its senior secured ratings on term loans, notes and industrial revenue bonds to B3 from B1.

Additionally, the rating on Citgo's senior secured revolving credit facility was downgraded to B2 from B1, reflecting a lower expected loss in case of default vis-à-vis other classes of debt in the company's capital structure. The rating outlook was also changed to stable from negative.

The rating actions follow Moody's downgrade of the Venezuelan government's bond ratings to Caa3 from Caa1 with a stable outlook, earlier this week. The principal driver of the decision to downgrade Venezuela's sovereign rating was "a marked increase in default risk owing to lower oil prices," the agency said. That’s all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’!

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© Gaurav Sharma 2015. Photo: Bloomberg screen grab as Brent and WTI futures achieve parity on January 15, 2015 © Bloomberg

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Oil price dip & those tankers on the horizon

Crude year 2015 has well and truly begun with the oil price slipping several notches further, as tankers begin carrying their January cargo that is worth considerably less than it was 12 months ago.

With the full trading week to Jan 9 seeing an uptick in trading volumes back to normal levels after the festive period, the Oilholic spent a day looking at tankers in English Bay on a beautiful sunny afternoon in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Most of these behemoths (see left, click to enlarge photo) ferry Canadian crude to Asian markets finding their way to the vastness of the ocean from Vancouver's Burrard Inlet. 

As tankers disappeared away from eyesight and yet more dotted the landscape, one's first 5-day assessment of this year saw Brent down 11.44% on the week before, WTI -8.2% and the OPEC Basket a whopping -16%. For now, the Canadian oil and gas industry is holding up pretty well and strategically bracing itself for a further drop in price to as low as US$35 per barrel.

Beyond that, of course all bets are off. Whatever the price, local environmental lobby groups don’t quite like these tankers “blotting the coastline of beautiful British Columbia” to quote one. Data suggests traffic has risen seven-fold since 2001. Of course, the oil being shipped isn’t local as British Columbia doesn’t have too much of its own.

Rather, as many of you would know, all of it is piped in from Alberta by Kinder Morgan to its Westport Terminal on the South East shoreline of Burrard Inlet in Burnaby. The company is the middle of a full on bid to increase pipeline capacity. However, standing on the beach, more than one environmentalist would tell you that a spill was inevitable, especially if you happen to declare you are an energy analyst.

Yet, both major incidents over the last ten years have been on land and weren’t down to the crude behemoths of the sea. In 2007, a construction mishap saw a Kinder Morgan pipeline break in Burnaby spilling oil into the Burrard Inlet while dousing some 50 homes in the neighbourhood with the crude stuff. 

Nearly two years later, a storage tank spilt 200,000 litres of oil on Burnaby Mountain. Thankfully, a containment bay prevented spillage into the wider environment. All this might not help Kinder Morgan's medium term public relations drive, but the volume of traffic and cargoes, even with the existing pipeline capacity, isn’t going to ebb over 2015 unless the global economy sees a severe downtown.

If the Russians, Americans and Saudis are in no mood to lower production, the Canadians aren’t going to either, according to anecdotal evidence. The Oilholic’s thoughts on how an oil price below $60 might well hit exploration and production in Canada (and elsewhere) are here in a Forbes piece one wrote earlier. 

This blogger does see an uptick in price from around the halfway point of 2015, as a supply correction is likely to kick-in. For the moment, barring a financial tsunami knocking non-OECD economic activity, the Oilholic's prediction is for a Brent price in the range of $75 to $85 and WTI price range of $65 to $75 for 2015. Weight on Brent should be to the upside, while weight on WTI should be to the downside of the aforementioned range.

Come Christmas, we should be looking at around $80 per Brent barrel. One thing is for sure, the days of a three-figure price aren’t likely to be seen over the next 12 months. That’s all for the moment folks! Keep reading, keep it ‘crude’! 

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© Gaurav Sharma 2015. Photo: Oil tankers in English Bay, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada © Gaurav Sharma 2015

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